The Marine Regions Forum 2023 was designed as an interactive conference to encourage active participation in addressing specific issues through plenary and workshop sessions within the meeting’s topical strands, brought together by three daily themes – Inclusivity, Innovation, and Implementation.
The inaugural day of the Marine Regions Forum 2023 commenced with discussions under the theme of “Inclusivity,” setting the stage for the exploration of diverse perspectives, equality promotion, and creating an inclusive atmosphere.
The focus on day two shifted to the theme of “Innovation,” with parallel sessions and a plenary delving into ground-breaking ideas and technologies to address the triple planetary crisis, foster a sustainable blue economy, and implement global goals at the regional level.
On the final day, the Forum concluded with discussions under the theme of “Implementation,” emphasizing practical application and strategies to turn ideas into action. Participants shared insights on overcoming challenges and ensuring tangible outcomes, contributing to the translation of discussions into real-world results. Plenary sessions and dialogue workshops addressed specific issues guided by four topical strands, around the conference theme: Tackling the triple planetary crisis; Fostering a sustainable blue economy; Implementing global goals at the regional level; and Regional ocean governance.
Photo gallery: opening session
Like strands woven into a strong rope, these topical strands were bound together by the daily themes—Inclusivity, Innovation, and Implementation—yielding significant insights and outcomes for robust and collaborative ocean governance in the WIO.
The topical strand, Tackling the triple planetary crisis, involved extensive discussions on the urgent need to collectively address climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution as interconnected environmental emergencies. Sessions highlighted among others:
- the accelerated rate of warming of the WIO, with an emphasis on the impacts on marine species, ecosystems, and potential food webs;
- the potential of a circular economy to tackle marine plastics, and the need to involve the plastics industry in combating plastic pollution;
- the importance of Locally Managed Marine Area Networks (LMMAs) for community involvement in sustainable resource management;
- nature-based solutions (NbS), such as constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment;
- technological advancements including artificial intelligence (AI) to improve maritime transparency and tackle illegal fishing; and
- the need for specific guidance on adapting the blue economy in the face of climate change.
Photo gallery: Tackling the triple planetary crisis
The discussion on the topical strand, Fostering a sustainable blue economy, acknowledged the potential for economic growth and underscored the importance of sustainability, equity, and inclusivity in the blue economy. Among others, sessions reported the need for:
- responsible ocean resource utilization, with a focus on protecting vital ecosystems;
- a Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) strategic framework for developing blue economy strategies;
- international cooperation mechanisms, such as the WIO Symphony; and
- the crucial role played by the private sector in catalyzing a sustainable blue economy, and their role in in driving Africa’s aspirations and benefiting communities.
Photo gallery: Fostering a sustainable blue economy
The strand on Implementing global goals at the regional level focused on, among others, the importance of achieving global goals at the regional level. Discussions addressed the relevance of:
- the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF);
- the ongoing Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment;
- the agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Treaty); and
- ongoing deep-sea mining negotiations of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
Photo gallery: Implementing Global Goals At The Regional Level
The Regional ocean governance strand delved into the roles of diverse entities in WIO ocean governance, with an emphasis on the development of the Nairobi Convention’s Regional Ocean Governance Strategy (ROGS). Participants discussed institutional setups, financing mechanisms, and lessons learned from the ROGS process. They, among others:
- emphasized the importance of a participatory process in developing ocean governance for credibility and ownership;
- outlined priorities for regional ocean governance, including: maritime security, blue economy, environment and natural resources, and knowledge management and science;
- proposed the institutionalization of an apex decision-making body in the WIO region; and
- stressed the need to draw lessons from the African Union (AU) multi-actor task force, and to share best practice and lessons from other regions.
Photo gallery: Regional ocean governance
The Marine Regions Forum 2023, which convened from 7-9 November 2023, brought together 160 participants from the WIO and other regions. The conference was co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Swedish Ministry for Climate and Enterprise, the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, and received support from the Nairobi Convention Secretariat. The Marine Regions Forum 2023 has been organised jointly by RIFS, IDDRI and TMG - ThinkTank for Sustainability and its regional partners, namely the Nairobi Convention Secretariat, CORDIO East Africa, and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) together with Empower Ltd.
Source: IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin